On July 24, 2017, the Women and Child Development Ministry led by Maneka Gandhi launched an online platform, called She-box (sexual harassment electronic box), to enable women employees of the Central government to file complaints related to sexual harassment at the workplace.
The Union government has 30.87 lakh employees. According to the Census of Central Government Employees 2011, women constitute 10.93% of the total force. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 mandates that all organisations that employ more than 10 workers must constitute an Internal Complaint Committee (ICC), to look into any complaints and allegations of sexual harassment.
The Women and Child Development Ministry website will host this online complaint management system. The intent behind this is to ensure “effective implementation” of the Act.
On the question of who can file a complaint under this online system, the website states that any woman working or visiting any Central government can file a complaint related to sexual harassment at the workplace through the She-box. A press release by the ministry explains that after submission of the complaint, it will be sent to the ICC of the concerned Ministry/Department/PSU/Autonomous Body with jurisdiction to look into it. The portal would enable the ministry to monitor the progress of inquiry conducted by the committee.
One of the reasons why this electronic complaint system has been launched is to ensure that the complainant gets a speedy hearing and redressal to the grievance put forth. Monitoring the complaints will also prove to be easier under this method. While the government will not do away with the traditional method of lodging a compliant, the hope is that this process will get streamlined and more women will come forward to use this.
The portal asks for basic details of the complainant such as name, designation, telephone number, ministry or organisation that the complainant belongs to, designation of the accused, working relationship with the accused, whether a complaint has been lodged with the ICC, and a brief description of the incident. Once the form is submitted, an email with all the relevant details is sent to the complainant’s email id for verification.
A former member of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) committee at a well-established firm says, “Currently complaints can be brought in through any medium. It can be communicated to a line of management, reported to the Human Resources and an e-mail can also be sent in. We encourage an email to ensure proper documentation and to avoid back tracks. An online system will also be great.”
“We are also going to soon conduct a national survey to assess the nature and magnitude of sexual harassment at the workplace,” Union minister Maneka Gandhi said after launching the portal at her office. While the benefits of this will be extended to Central government employees to begin with, they plan to include the private sector into the ambit as well.
Manisha (name changed), an employee of an IT firm in Delhi, says, “We are usually asked to report such incidences to either the Human Resources head or our managers. It would, however, make life easier if we had the option of reporting such cases online. It would not only save time but also the angst of having to narrate the incident to our superiors.”
Let’s hope that the government extends this facility to the private sector soon.
More details can be found here.